Making a Difference with North County Lifeline
For my Service Learning Project I took the opportunity to volunteer with North County Lifeline (NCL) which is a local nonprofit organization that helps low income families and children in need in the North County San Diego area. North County Lifeline organizes afterschool programs, housing assistance for low income families, relief for domestic violence victims, as well as offering support for local foster youth.
As a psychology student, I was interested in helping an organization with a great multitude of local support resources like North County Lifeline. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get involved with an institution that functions to serve and support our community. As someone whose family has had to utilize community based programs in the past, such as food banks and emergency shelters, I appreciate the efforts and passion that people involved with North County Lifeline (both employees and volunteers) are putting into their community outreach programs. I was happy I was able to help them facilitate the events and activities that provide hope and comfort to many families and children in the area.
One of the things I was very thankful for was that North County Lifeline has a variety of ongoing activities that they need volunteers for. There was a new project each day I volunteered. This organization definitely stays very busy. They are involved with Kiwanis International, who work with North County Lifeline and I really enjoyed working with them at their fundraiser to eliminate Maternal Neonatal Tetanus in third world countries. The older crowd involved with the fundraiser were so nice and loved to talk about school and life. I was assigned to sell tickets for an opportunity drawing and I was able to meet a lot of new people, which was great!
I also helped North County Lifeline with their La Casita After School Program for K-5th grade kids. The few days that I was there helped kids learn through arts and crafts, as well as helping them with assessments that allowed them to get placed in appropriate grade level tutoring. Some of the most interesting conversations you’ll ever have are with kids under the age of ten. After working with the kids for a few days, North County Lifeline asked me to help set up and prepare for their Annual Board Members meeting. When I showed up that day I saw some familiar people from both the Kiwanis fundraiser as well as La Casita, so it was great to start seeing some of the same faces.
The last event I was able to help out with was North County Lifeline Winter Nutrition Bag Drive which provides bags of food to low income families in the area. They brought a truck load of food and drinks on seven pallets and we unloaded and worked together as an assembly line to fill over 220 bags. It was awesome to work with other volunteers as we got such a large task completed in a matter of about three hours. The end result was so satisfying and I know that we were able to help support and provide some sort of relief for so many families during these cold winter months leading up to the holidays. This service learning project was so very valuable for me because I was given the chance to help with a variety of different projects and groups that actually all had a similar objective; supporting resiliency in our local, and global communities. I am a firm believer in the notion that each individual has the ability to create changes in the community around them. Making even a small impression can change a person’s day, and possibly even change a child’s perception of their future. Every individual has the power to make a difference, even if it’s a small difference.
Remembering Course Terms
The site that I have chosen for my service learning is Glenner Memory Care Center. The founders of the first Center, which opened in 1982 in Hillcrest, California are Dr. George Glenner and his wife Joy Glenner. Dr. George Glenner was a leading researcher who wanted to do whatever he could to help people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. There are now three different locations in Southern California, and with over five million people living with Alzheimer's, they are greatly needed. According to alz.org, Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in America and one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or dementia. In our class focused on social problems, we framed Alzheimer's as a social problem, not just a problem of old age, because it is a condition that has negative consequences on many people.
Dr. Glenner had many resources, which are important in a social problem process. He worked for UC San Diego School of Medicine and focused most of his time researching and understanding Alzheimer's disease. The medicalization of the disease came about when Dr. Alzheimer thought there was more than just the belief that as you get older your memories fade with you. So when one of his long time patients who suffered from memory problems, confusion, and difficultly understanding died he performed a brain autopsy and discovered plaques and tangles surrounding the nerve cells. The conclusion of his finding created what we now know as Alzheimer’s disease, over a hundred years ago. His patient could be looked at as a typifying example because she was the first person identified who lived with the disease. He used his subjective experience, which caused him to become an activist and create a diagnosis.
Some of the language associated with Alzheimer's is old age, senility, confusion, forgetfulness, broken and lost objects. My service learning site, the Glenner Memory Care Center is a cultural institution because they provide more than health care to victims with cognitive conditions. Not only do they help their patients but they help the caregivers and families as well. They claim to have everything under one roof, which I witnessed firsthand. They have nurses, a dietitian, activity coordinators, lots of help and love. They address many different cognitive issues and take from minor cases to more serious cases of dementia and Alzheimer's. Another claim I read on their website is that they have individual programs. 1 hadn't seen that executed until this past week where one of the participants was having pain in his leg and an expert took him to the side and did personal physical therapy with him while the rest continued on exercise routines created for them by their doctors. For example some of the physically stronger men used a five- pound weight while another man would only use a one-pound weight, because he had a more difficult time focusing and remembering what he was doing. The activity director knew exactly which patient needed which weight and what they were and weren't capable of.
Although mostly everyone knows what Alzheimer's is, I believe people don't understand the tremendous affect it has until they have lived with someone who is going through this horrible disease. By being at the Glenner Center and talking to the victims you see how far their rmemory has faded. I sat with a man for thirty minutes and he talked about the same narrative three different times. There needs to be more awareness of and education about the disease. Experts are the most influential claims makers, and I feel we need more relevant spokespersons the young people could connect with to get them involved on this major issue.
What I have learned at my site is that the staff’s main priority is to help the patients feel like they're not alone. They are doing what the professionals (doctors and scientists) say is therapeutic, such as physical, music, art, and pet activities. These activities have all been designed to help people diagnosed with any form of dementia and Alzheimer's. Such activity doesn't reverse memory loss but helps with everyday living. According to alz.org as of now there is no cure for Alzheimer's but they have noticed an encouraging trend to slow it down, where the patients aren't getting significantly worse. In some cases the doctor has said they will be this bad in "x" amount of time, but with the help of these programs, there is an increase of brain function and improvement of muscle function in patients.
At Glenner Center I was able to help the patients during games and activities. I have witnessed the struggle it is to care for someone with Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. Remembering something as simple as your name is a challenge for them. What is great about the center is that the patients get to interact with one another rather than just laying down all day at home. I was also able to help the staff during one of the workout sessions. The patients enjoy the various activities like bingo, trivia question and even going outside for a walk. I really enjoyed the experience, and I look forward to continue to going outside of the class to work with the patients and see improvements in them. The staff at the Glenner Center is great as well, and I was even able to do an interview with the program coordinator. He told me about his background in medicine, and it was refreshing to hear how passionate he is about helping the patients.
The Glenner Memory Care Center is an essential institution not only for the people living with cognitive inabilities but also their families. The center offers a free support group every Wednesday and usually has over twenty participants including family members and other caregivers. The information I have read online is almost exactly what I have seen in person. The people who work at Glenner care about the patients and hope to make a positive impact on everyone's life. It is a phenomenal place filled with positivity and care. It really is a wonderful place and I am so happy I chose the Glenner Memory Care Center for my service learning, because I now have great respect for families and patients suffering from this unbearable disease. It has helped me better understand what we've been learning in class for example, and now I am able to recognize and comprehend so many terms that were used throughout the course and connect them to everyday life.
Kids Eight & Nine, Are Divine
I chose to do my service learning at Palmquist Elementary School in Oceanside, CA.The grade that I decided to observe and interact with was third grade. I have worked with children ranging from six weeks to thirteen years old, but I enjoy working with all age groups. I chose this age group because these kids are still sponges soaking up all the information they are taught, but they have gained enough knowledge already where they are starting to become their own person. I have also noticed that this is the time when the children start to differentiate from each other, academically; they either stand out or start to fall behind. This is a crucial time where you can make a difference in a child’s life. I was really excited for this project because, while I have worked with all age groups, I have never been in a school setting before, so this was a new experience for me.
While observing and interacting with the kids, I witnessed several concepts being played out. Children playing on the playground--boys with boys and girls with girls--displayed the culture of children, because they are segregated by gender. Kids in this group are still in the phase of ‘boys are gross’ or ‘girls are gross,’ so they stick to their own gender when it comes to playing. During recess, seeing kids play in groups or by themselves demonstrated the different types of play that Mildred Parten discovered, whether it was solitary, onlooker, parallel, associative or cooperative play. Just by watching the kids, I was able to pinpoint what type of play each one represented. For example, two boys were playing marbles right next to each other but they weren’t playing together. This type of play is called parallel play where the kids play with the same thing in similar ways but are not playing together. In the classroom I was able to pick up on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences while the teacher was helping the students learn the multiples of nine. She taught them a song that went to the rhythm of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. This type of teaching helps kids that have strengths in music. While helping kids with a worksheet, I worked with a girl that was an English language learner. She is behind in learning because she hasn’t been in American schools very long. I witnessed her struggle with English and felt I was able to help her a little, but she still has a lot of work to do to catch up with the other kids.
This service learning experience was fantastic and it showed me that I am on the correct career path. I love working with children and making a difference in their lives, so I have chosen to be a pediatric occupational therapist. Working with these third graders was really enjoyable and showed me that I can make a difference. Even if it was just a little time that I spent with them, I felt like I did make a difference. It gives me great satisfaction that I was able to be a part of these kids’ educational journeys. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this service learning project, and I definitely will be doing more in the future.
Teachers are with these students for a full academic year and during that time they are molding them and helping them become a part of this society. Being a part of this classroom gave me a new appreciation for all of our teachers and everything that they do. The majority of teachers are underpaid when they have one of the most important jobs out there. They are in charge of all the kids and their educational futures. Everyone wouldn’t be where they are in their careers if it weren’t for their teachers. As a society we need to make sure that teachers have all they need to give our kids what they need in order to succeed. Teachers need to be our top priority, but right now they aren’t.
The Art of Scaffolding
I love people of all ages, but two-year olds are to me the most fascinating human beings. The fact that they begin to have agency and initiative and yet are still in an emergent state of language acquisition in and of itself makes life inherently quite frustrating. They work so hard to make meaning out of life, and I love the uniqueness of their minds as they do so, how beautifully they come to a point of realization, moving from disequilibrium to equilibrium. I love the laughter of a classroom of two year olds. It’s like music. As an early childhood educator specializing in two-year old classrooms in a state that does not have educational requirements for teaching preschool-age children, I’ve missed that beauty and musical laughter so much. In taking the classes needed for credentialing and in choosing this service learning project, I knew that I would learn quite a bit, but I had no idea just how much I would learn and how profound it would impact me personally.
Perhaps there is more to why I chose this age group to work with. We each go through life as human beings, each of us navigating different developmental stages over the course of our lives in our own complicated, human ways. Through infancy, childhood and adolescence, we are reliant on our caregivers to provide so much and yet they, too, are human with their own developmental stages to work through. Is it possible that in providing care to children, in parenting, we seek to resolve that which was less than optimal in our own lives? For me, I know this to be true. And as a teacher, I have known my greatest challenge is the hypervigilance associated with wanting to make everything hyper optimal for each child. Over the course of my teaching career, I have found that that impulse can be counter-productive to creating a warm, calm, and engaging classroom that supports learning for each individual in the classroom. As a child, I struggled with perfectionism. As an adult and as a teacher, I still struggle with perfectionism.As much as I think I’ve grown and evolved beyond the tendency towards perfectionism (and its unfortunate sidekick, procrastination) I think I was, in part, super excited to do service learning in the MiraCosta Child Development Center because it felt like the perfect place to learn. It felt like child development heaven, the best possible environment.
But what I couldn’t have anticipated is how much understanding Vygotsky’s learning theory transforms the art of teaching for me, through this service learning project. The classroom had this wonderful air of calm engagement. In part, that may have had to do with the low teacher-student ratios. However, I think it had more to do with the thoughtful and intentional incorporation of the best of all theories and educational models we study, but especially that of Vygotsky. One example is that the teacher finds the learner’s zone of proximal development, the skills, knowledge, and concepts that the learner is close to acquiring but cannot yet master without help. The mentor must avoid two opposite dangers: boredom and failure. Some frustration is permitted, but the learner must be actively engaged, never passive and never overwhelmed.”
I could sense the impact of this informed and artful education through the engagement of the children in the classroom. I could hear it in the phrasing of the teachers in the classroom as they spoke to children as they played, explored, and problem-solved. I was able to see that, as I wrote out the anecdotal records, there were so many different ways that I could have scaffolded better the learning of a particular child I was mentoring. And yet, I realized that I am also placing myself in a zone of proximal development by taking these classes. As educators, there are limitless opportunities to improve children’s circumstances so that they can experience optimal development. Those techniques take time and education to master. Since education is a process that involves mentoring, it just isn’t possible to have figured it out before you even begin.
For me, this means continuing to take classes in early childhood education and identifying mentors who will support me in learning these skills. In particular, this experiential learning has shown me how very much I have to learn and practice in order to effectively implement scaffolding. I am immensely grateful for the generosity of the teachers in Room 2 and the administration of MiraCosta College’s Child Development Center for supporting this experiential learning (in heaven.) Even more so, I am grateful for the encouragement and enthusiastic support of Professor Skemp, sensing in her instruction of this class that she holds us each in our own zone of proximal development.
Nutrition and a Mission
I was very pleased that I was able to do something in the community through the service learning opportunities program made available to me MiraCosta College. I chose to work with the North County Food Bank because I felt that the work would have some overlap with the curriculum that I was learning in nutrition. After getting in touch with the volunteer coordinator, Jeremiah Luster, I scheduled an orientation time where I learned all of the ins and outs of the program. I was surprised and impressed with the care that they took in making sure that we knew exactly what was expected of us while we would be volunteering. I was pleased to find out that instead of just sorting food, we would also be engaging with those who were shopping at the food bank, helping them to fill up grocery carts that were not only nutritionally balanced, but also fit the needs of their family.
I remember my first day, when a mom, and her daughter who could not have been more than six years old, came into the food bank. It made me so happy to watch the little girl get to run around the warehouse and pick out food, all while I got to direct her into choosing healthier foods. It was really at that moment that I felt a connection to the organization's purpose of providing opportunity to those who would not have had it otherwise. Part of the reason why I enjoyed volunteering at the Food Bank so much was because of the variety of day to day tasks. Generally, a food donation company brings in a shipment of food at the beginning of the day. Then, the volunteers unload the shipment and sort through it, making sure that everything is acceptable, such as proper expiration dates and quality of the food. Almost every time I went in, there was a new project to be done in addition to this routine. For example, one of the projects that I was assigned involved renovating part of the warehouse. That day we resurfaced shelves, swept floors, scrubbed storage containers and shelves, and organized past shipments. Not only would we organize and clean the warehouse, but we would also assist families and agencies that represented families shopping for food. Throughout the day, we would escort families around the store, helping them select food based on family size. The dietary guidelines that I learned in nutrition, such as what are the different food groups, helped me to better perform this task as I was able to choose healthier options.
Overall, the experience for me was very important because I got to experience firsthand how a few hours out of your day can impact someone else's life in your community. Even though many people are becoming more and more health conscious, as nutrition education has greatly improved, the challenge of access to healthy foods is still an issue that many people face. The growth of programs such as the North County Food Bank could have a tremendously positive impact on our society by providing both nutritional sustenance and healthier dietary education to those in need.
Dignity, Choices, & Routines
Volunteering at Seacrest Village Retirement Communities was delightful. My first visit to the retirement community was an orientation presented by Mary Gulden, Director of Life Enrichment, and Bailey Seibel, GRC Life Enrichment Lead. I was given a volunteer handbook that was reviewed thoroughly followed by a tour of the community. The orientation experience was professional, informative, and welcoming.
All of my volunteering at Seacrest Village was with the assisted living residents. My first volunteering experience was an outing, to go shopping and then to lunch with nine elderly Seacrest ladies. I quickly discovered that I was going to have to learn to understand the different personalities of these elderly ladies. Most of them demonstrated some level of dementia. I have not worked around nor had any exposure to dementia, so it was a new experience. I noticed that the employees talked in direct sentences and didn’t give many choices to these ladies with the higher level of dementia. I realized that in order to get a solid response from these ladies they had to ask direct questions. When we were all at the restaurant it was difficult for some of the ladies to make a decision on what to order. The life enrichment lead gave the ladies with the most difficult time deciding what to order two meal choices. When the ladies decided which of the two meals they wanted, it was ordered. This was my only outing experience, with all the rest of my volunteer service taking place at the Seacrest Village facility calling Bingo and being a helper with art therapy.
Activities for the residents are very important to keep them active and result in social interactions, which ultimately enhances their quality of life. Seacrest Village does a great job providing activities for the assisted living residents. I found that Seacrest Village followed a routine of activities for its assisted living residents; all the activities were held in the same room and on the same floor where their apartments were located. The same activity was held at the same time, on the same day during each week. Having a routine helps all the residents know what is going on in their community and where they can find the activity. I did notice that once in a while there would be some confusion when I would show up to help with Thursday’s art therapy. The residents that didn’t attend art therapy, but always played Bingo, would think I was there for Bingo. So I would have to explain to them that I was there for art therapy, and they were welcome to join us, but Bingo would be the next day.
Art therapy was a small group. The same ladies came and there wasn’t much talking between them as they colored. My observations were the majority of the ladies that came to art therapy showed varied signs of mild dementia. Watching them was interesting; some of them had a very hard time concentrating on what the picture was or what color(s) to use. Some would only use two colors for the whole picture and others would use many colors. It was easy for some of them to color within the lines of the picture, and others couldn’t stay within the lines at all. Most of them made comments that they aren’t artist and their pictures were ugly. The art instructor and I always encouraged and complimented them on their lovely coloring. This always made them smile, and they would eventually agree that they did a good job.
I found that they all enjoyed art therapy, some stated they did, while others’ nonverbal behavior showed they enjoyed it. Art therapy is relaxing for them as it gives them a sense of accomplishment both when they finished their art piece and again when they were complimented for making a lovely piece of art. They especially loved it when their art was posted on the art board in the activity room.
Bingo is a fun and interactive activity for the residents. It offers social interaction along with cognitive stimulation. I had a nice group of regular players. Besides getting opportunities to talk one-on-one with the residents, before and after Bingo, it was my favorite activity. It gave me time to interact with the players and learn more about them. I was able to greet them by their name, welcome them to the activity, and offer a positive, fun experience. I believe I was able to add joy to their day by providing a positive and fun activity.
This service project provided a learning experience that reinforced the studies of Gerontology 130, on caregiving techniques for working with the frail elderly. I observed personalities with dementia, elderly with hearing loss, vision loss, and ambulatory issues. The studies from Gerontology 130 covers all of these situations and many more. I was able to practice many of the suggested techniques, as outlined in “Communicating with Older Adults, An Evidence Based Review of What Really Works; Developed by the Gerontological Society of America.” The information from the published study helped me with communicating and understanding what the residents’ needs were; as well as the importance of active listening skills. “Eldercare 911,” the course successfully, described how important activities are for the elderly to maintain their quality of life. Learning about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the many other necessary issues of a caregiver must know about the aging process, is essential to me. My goal is to be the best employable caregiver for the elderly.
I am thankful and pleased that I had the opportunity to interact with the staff and residents at Seacrest Village Retirement Communities. It was a positive experience. I highly recommend that future students take the opportunity to volunteer and make a positive contribution to our communities.
A College Food Pantry
Hunger affects millions of people in the United States, from youth to seniors, which makes it a problem that needs a lot of attention, work and time. Creation of the food pantry at MiraCosta College was a brilliant idea to help our needy students, our fellow classmates, solve the issue of hunger. The food pantry provides free lunches and a bag of groceries for a week for students who can’t afford healthy and nutritious food during their study hours. Generally lunch consists of a can of vegetables, soup or legumes, and a protein bar or briquette of fruits. These lunches provide the keys of the most important components for a healthy diet such as protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fats, carbohydrates and calcium. Also, the representatives of the Service Learning Office and the food pantry give information to students about where they can get permanent support with food supplies from different organizations. As a student in a nutrition class, I was more than happy to be given the opportunity to work in the food pantry with Carol Wilkinson for the goal of helping the MiraCosta community by using knowledge gained from nutrition class in my service learning project.
I volunteered as a food assistant with the food pantry at MiraCosta campus once a week, usually Thursdays or Fridays. Before the end of October I was working downstairs where the food storage is located. There I would check the cans for their food expiration dates and put them in the order from farthest to closest expirations dates. At the end of October the food drive started which was called “Scare Hunger Away”. This event gives an opportunity to all students, staff and faculty on the MiraCosta campus to donate to the food pantry. Halloween donation boxes were placed around the campus, where people could leave their canned food donations. During this time I was checking on the boxes because if somebody left a donation in the box I needed to take it to the office. In the office I was checking expiration dates and which cans were acceptable, I then took them downstairs to the storage room. It is really important to check expiration dates because the food pantry needs to provide healthy, not expired food to MiraCosta college students.
Before the food drive, Carol Wilkinson asked me to make a list of the healthiest canned foods of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and soup because some donors were interested in knowing which types of canned foods would be the best to donate to the food pantry. Through this task I was able to connect knowledge from my nutrition class about finding credible sources of nutritional information and using it in real life. So, I made a list of the healthiest canned food which was based on my research on the internet websites with reliable information.
For the Nutrition 100 class, this service learning assignment was valuable and gave me a lot of rewarding experiences. I learned information about hunger and how this problem is important, about nutrients which are provided in canned foods, about expiration dates and recognition of websites with reliable information. Now I can use this valuable experience in my future because it is really important to understand and realize what kind of food we consume based on GMO injections which helps keep food longer and taste better.
If students are hungry they have a hard time sitting in classrooms and studying. The service learning food pantry provides our students with the ability to help alleviate this problem. It was a good learning experience and it was fun to work with Carol Wilkinson and help her to make the world a little bit better at MiraCosta College.
Apples, Bananas, & Carrots
“Three to five” and “sixty” were the numbers I found myself cheering for, with four different classes of 4th graders. Three to five cups of fruits and vegetables and at least sixty minutes of exercise per day.
I have always been passionate about nutrition and the well-being of children, especially in today’s society with an epidemic of childhood obesity. I’m a huge advocate for healthy choices and healthy families. Since my move back to California from North Carolina, I have been searching to find a place that suited my passions, a place where I could volunteer. I jumped at the opportunity when my professor told us about our school’s service learning program, and when I found out about the wonderful things the Vista Unified School District was doing for their children, I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it.
I was able to take part in one elementary school’s first farmer’s markets. It was led by an amazing organization that would bring in farm fresh fruits and vegetables to the school. At the market, the kids covered a variety of topics; the different produce and why it was good for them; food safety; about the farms the produce came from; the current drought and how it is affecting us; things we could do to help; and also simple math! Each of the kids was given $2 of play money and got to shop for the different things they wanted to try and bring it home to their families. It was so wonderful seeing the smiles on their faces and just how excited they got, because they had the power to choose what they wanted to try and experience the sheer excitement of making healthier choices! I loved being a part of that.
I also got to volunteer at the VUSD fair and be a part of the Wave Crest Cafe. There we made up cards with different fruits and vegetables. The children would choose their favorite fruits or vegetables, and we would then show their choices at all of the different schools, using that to advertise what was currently being offered at their salad bars! The kids would get to see their own artwork when they went to lunch. They loved it and it was great getting them involved.
The majority of my time was spent in the classroom. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the 4th graders of Olive Elementary in Vista. I got to teach nutrition to 4 different classes. They were so excited to have me come in and play games and hear about what new things they got to try and what new activities they did that they never tried before. The classroom participation was astonishing. With every lesson I would come in and ask about how many cups of fruits and vegetables they should have and how much exercise they should get a day. By the end they knew it like the back of their little hands! We would go over the different vitamins the different fruits contained and what they did for our bodies. At the very end we were able to do a taste test of a few different fruits and veggies and they got to “rate the taste” to see what they liked and didn't like. If they didn't like something we got to discuss different, yummy ways they could prepare it so they could look forward to trying it again! It was a great learning experience for them and a great learning experience for me. This service learning helped me realize that this is something (even though my hours are complete with the school), I will happily continue doing in my free time.
Preserve to Sustain San Elijo & Batiquitos Lagoon
I volunteered at both the Batiquitos Lagoon and Ford Wildlife Habitat Preserve that is a part of the San Elijo Lagoon. I really enjoyed volunteering and I plan on volunteering more in the future, specifically at the restoration event on December 20. I feel that I made a difference at both community organizations, because I contributed to preserving the natural habitats that allow the lagoons to sustain and provide food for the various natural species of wildlife. The tasks that I performed included constructing plant protector cages and planting native trees at the Ford Wildlife Habitat Preserve. The area had been previously infested by eucalyptus introduced to the area during the time that railroads were built (eucalyptus trees are used to make railroad ties).
The planted native species were trees such as: cottonwood, arroyo willow, and blue elderberry, trees which all belong to the riparian vegetation zone. The cottonwood provided native people with wood to make shelters and the coastal live oak trees provided acorns as a source of food. The elderberry trees offered fruit for various songbirds. On another occasion we made seed balls with 100ml of water, 1200ml of dirt and sand, and 300ml of seeds. We were instructed to make balls equivalent to the diameter of a quarter. After we used all the supplies we had made 1,619 seed balls in total. It was fun getting dirty and feeling the raw earth in my hands. The seed balls included narrow leaf milkweed, saltgrass, California blackberry, and desert wild grape seeds. The last day I attended I removed invasive plants that were degrading the quality of life of various natural plant species and re-established barriers around plants that would allow water to absorb into its roots.
The constant challenges that both the organizations encounter are maintaining natural plant species that provide shelter and food sources and securing enough funds from the community, organizations, and government agencies to continue serving the public. The success of replacing native species and removing invasive species is dependent upon the services that volunteers and staff provide. The most interesting aspect of volunteering was learning about the habitat of our native coastal estuaries and their various species. It was really neat being involved in restoration of the native habitat, because we are contributing to the success of the lagoons to flourish. A couple of the most challenging moments that I encountered was constructing cages out of metal fencing and also collecting large amounts of water from the creek to water the plants that we planted. Carrying those large water jugs at times seemed almost impossible. I had no idea that I would be exerting so much energy. On one occasion at the Ford Wildlife Habitat Preserve, I didn’t think that I needed my own personal water bottle, and I became so dehydrated that by the end of the four hour period I felt sick. But, regardless I continued and worked as hard as I could.
The best part of all was the great team work that we achieved. It felt so amazing to work as a group in such a positive way. It was very rewarding knowing that I participated in helping such a beautiful segment of our environment. I realized that there are people who care about the wildlife that gives so much to us. It is touching to know that there are such kind and giving people in the world. By volunteering I learned a wealth of information about the many issues that preserves encounter, especially littering.
It was interesting actually visiting estuaries after learning about coastal shores and estuaries. It has always amazed me that all the fresh water sources in North County San Diego eventually end up in the coastal lagoons. The fresh water then mixes with salt water from the ocean. These environments are very productive, and learning that they create more organic matter than forests of the same size is remarkable. After briefly learning about estuaries, it was neat to see the different habitat types such as shallow open waters, fresh water and salt marshes, swamps, sandy beaches, mud and sand flats, and various types of sea grasses. There are several species of birds, mammals, and other types of wildlife that live, feed, and reproduce in its habitats. I also discovered that estuaries are referred to as “nurseries of the sea.”
In class I learned that estuaries are very important in filtering pollutants. The sediments are filtered out through swamps and salt marshes and create cleaner water that benefit communities of both people and marine life. They also absorb flood waters and protect upland habitats from extensive flood damage. The water is very dense in nutrients that largely contributes to its high biological productivity. By visiting the lagoons I learned that there are 700 species of plants and animals. Many of these species are rare and endangered. I was told by the staff that bald eagles are occasionally spotted in the sky around the lagoons.
Overall, I am so glad that I did the extra credit assignment that led me to volunteering at both the San Elijo Lagoon and the Batiquitos Lagoon. I had such a great time and it truly was a life changing experience. I have always been interested in native water shed habitats around Southern California because I have spent so much time hiking on trails along native creeks, lakes, and rivers. I have also taken an environmental biology class and am interested in habitat conservation. While getting to know the group members, I talked to interns who shared their stories. I asked them what their educational backgrounds were and what led them to their intern positions. I have always considered pursuing a job in environmental biology. But, only the future will tell what I finally decide to pursue in the path that hopefully leads to my lifetime career.
Over the past semester, I have been volunteering at Rancho Buena Vista High School and observing tenth and twelfth grade honors English students in Suzie Owen’s classroom. Observing the students over the past three months has caused me to ponder over how young people mature and what influences them on a daily basis.
It was easy to see that although the seniors were only two grade levels above the sophomores, the two groups differed greatly in maturity. The group of fifteen year olds, although bright, demonstrated immense insecurities when it came to applying their knowledge. Most of the students within the class seized any opportunity to avoid school work, often acting silly or purposefully straying from the in class topic or assignment. When forced to present to the class on specific chapters of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, the students seemed afraid to demonstrate their intelligence to their peers. The students feel judged by their peers and seek always to maintain a balance between acting too smart or acting too foolish.
In a survey that I developed (using borrowed material from Karen Baum’s General Sociological Survey), I asked the students, “In high school, people care too much about what other people think.” Out of twenty-nine students, twenty-five agreed with the statement. The students realize that their peers are judging them, and they behave accordingly. They act silly together, confused together, and they sympathize with one another. I noticed when Mrs. Owen spoke to the class, oft-times the students whispered to each other and ignored her, and occasionally they talked over her. However, when a peer presented to the class, all the students hushed, realizing their turns would come shortly thereafter.
The relationship between Mrs. Owen and the seniors, as well as the seniors with each other, is very different from the sophomores. The seniors, approaching college, have embraced the responsibility they have to their own education, and generally they demonstrate a desire to prove themselves intellectually to their teacher and to their peers. During my visits to the classroom, the students read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and The Stranger by Albert Camus. They participated with much greater enthusiasm in book discussions with Mrs. Owen, and they conversed with each other with equal excitement.
The differences between these two groups helped me to realize how much other people influence the way we think of ourselves and how we behave. The tenth graders still feel and act like children, not realizing how close they are to life outside of high school. They worry about making mistakes in front of their peers or being perceived as, “know-it-alls,” if they answer questions in class or participate in class discussions. This fear influences them to participate less, direct questions only at their teacher, and engage in off-topic discussions with classmates during activities.
The twelfth graders, on the other hand, are beginning to feel their proximity to their future lives and are accruing knowledge to prepare themselves. They respect Mrs. Owen’s authority and in turn, she rewards them with more autonomy. They purposefully involve each other in stimulating discussions, practicing for college life and for the work force.
The lasting impression that this service learning experience has had on me, is the importance of understanding the impact our circumstances have on us. Although some of the differences in maturity between the tenth and twelfth graders is purely determined by age, a portion of it is also the influence of peer pressure. If one student was surrounded by thirty-five students who didn’t care about school, didn’t want an education, and had no interest in making better lives for themselves, perhaps the one student would lose interest in his or her personal goals as well. Young people are unsure of themselves in almost every situation. They feel insecure and unprepared, constantly striving for the approval of their families and friends. Their growth into mature respectable, young adults is heavily influenced by the condition of their environment.
Learning on the Line
Volunteering at Brother Benno’s was something that had interested me since last semester. When I was told that this was an option for service learning, I quickly called Brother Benno’s. This assignment was appealing to me because helping those in need is something that I have always enjoyed, and other classmates who had volunteered there talked about how much they had learned from the experience they had there. Obviously, because I was doing it for my nutrition class, nutrition had to be front and center in my volunteering services.
First, I contacted Denise the volunteer coordinator at Bother Benno’s. It took her a while to get back to me so I had to call back to make sure she received my phone call. Then, she told me to show up at 6:00 a.m. on a Friday to fill out some paper work, and I started to volunteer that day. We talked about incorporating nutrition into volunteering so in comparison to most of the volunteers who are there for the social aspect, I had the chance to help on the serving line, be the coffee girl, and bake healthy cookies for them towards the end.
I was asked to serve food in the service line. The service line consists of different stations with different kinds of food such as sandwiches, juice, fruits salad, dairy products, etc. Their orange ticket entitled them to a meal of the day plus milk and yogurt to go. They could take home one egg carton per ticket and could get a lunch which had a sandwich, juice, some type of fruit and vegetable, and lastly, eggs, mashed potatoes, gravy, and bread at the end. Then they would get an orange tray where their meal of the day could which gave them the option of getting some fruit salad, some type of dairy product; in addiotion they could get both milk and yogurt to go. Then they could get one egg carton per person with two to three prepackaged foods plus a pastry. On Saturday, the same type of food was given out except they had spaghetti for lunch instead of eggs. People were allowed to go through the line 2-3 times each morning.
During my time volunteering at the food serving line, I observed people’s eating choices. I came to notice that most of them did not like fruits or vegetables and always found a way around them but loved pastries and always wanted to take more. When I served on the food line, people would often ask me if the food was high in protein or to give them high protein foods. Women usually asked for salads and a lot of packaged fruits and vegetables, and I often heard them say they needed to be careful choosing what they eat. If I wasn’t serving food I was giving coffee to people, and they consumed vast amounts of coffee on a daily basis. People even brought in their own cups that were bigger than the ones given so they could put more coffee in.
On my last day volunteering, I brought in 150 oatmeal cookies that I baked myself. They were healthy oatmeal cookies with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and some had raisins. Going in to volunteer that day I honestly thought that many people would not want cookies, but to my surprise everyone did. As I offered the cookies people would look at the cookie for a while but decided to take one anyway. Some people even whispered that they were healthy but good, which made me laugh. Men, women, and kids liked them, and they were a success. I ran out of cookies in thirty minutes or so.
Overall, volunteering at Brother Benno’s was a great experience. I learned a lot regarding individuals’ nutritional choices and met great people. I learned choices are very important, especially when a load of food is placed right in front of you. The right or wrong choices are instilled in a person at a very young age, because I noticed that a lot of people at Brother Benno’s don’t opt for the healthier options even though they are right in front of them. However, a lot of this is due to the fact that many of them are homeless or very poor, and all they want is food in their system. I have learned how important it is to make the right food choices to better your health after observing some people making unhealthy choices.
What Happens When You Don't Wake Up from a Nightmare?
Do not be afraid of sudden terror nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes. For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. For years I repeated this verse to myself in the dead of night as shivers ran down my spine and goose bumps covered every inch of my body. On the nights I would be awakened by terrible nightmares I would cover my body head to toe with my blanket leaving enough room to stick my nose through a hole and breathe. I always found comfort in the fact that morning would break and the sun would rise emitting a soft warmth to erase my fears. For me they were simply nightmares, bad dreams that would never matter but for others bad dreams and nightmares don't come in the night, they come at any time of day. *
Daylight makes no difference though for the women who gather around a pile of toys in the play room of the agency Las Valientes. This local non-profit organization assists Hispanic women with issues associated with domestic violence. Before I stepped foot in the agency, I had never taken time to properly inform myself about domestic violence and the affect it has on marriages, but as I built friendships with the women who attended Las Valientes weekly support meetings, my heart grew and I found it significantly harder to leave after every meeting.
Thursdays nights became special, magical even, where age, culture, and beliefs did not exist. Four light brown walls shielded and separated us from a world that held cruel obstacles and scary confrontations. At first glance, it was not your typical playroom. Chairs in a deep shade of blue were lined up in a circle which gave a serious air to the room making the toys that were piled up in a comer seem out of place. No children were in sight and the youngest people in the group were older teens, but on the fourth night Blanca and her three children walked in. The youngest ran the show from the moment she walked in. I like to call her Dora, with her black shiny hair sitting above her shoulders and her bangs covering the tips of her long eyelashes. Her stubby legs carried her from toy to toy as we played in the waiting room, and her tiny hands grabbed lego after lego. As I watched her skim her fingers across every toy available I could overhear her mom telling the story that brought little Dora into my life. The mom had been wrongfully imprisoned on two different occasions, held in a prison that also housed murderers. She had fled the iron grip of her husband only to return a few months later and then leave once and for all only weeks before we met her. Typically women begin to feel lonely and lost a few weeks after leaving abusive relationships and return to their abusers because they fear being alone, but Blanca had realized her kids deserved better, that they needed a safer environment to thrive in, and that’s why she came to Las Valientes. As she told her story and I played with the kids in the other room, tears streamed down her cheeks and her voice broke after every few words. Anger and frustration seeped out of her, and the women who knew exactly what she was going through did their very best to fill her void with love and compassion.
In that playroom every woman was perfectly imperfect and loved beyond words. Lifelong friendships developed within seconds upon greeting one another, and years of repressed emotions oozed out of every woman's pores. My main concern, at the start of my service learning, was the lack of resources available to immigrants in our community, but as I hugged the women who walked through the door I realized one of the most crucial resources they lacked was friendship. Attending these meetings introduced me to a world where friendship is nonexistent, where husbands threaten and abuse their wives however their mood dictates, including restricting contact with family, friends, and even sons and daughters.
To me daylight was my friend, the bible verse was my friend, and together they guided me out of my nightmares, but the women at these meetings had no friend to guide them out of their nightmares. In fact they lived day to day walking in their nightmares many of them eagerly awaiting the morning, some already beginning to soak up some sun. What holds them together now are the friendships that they have built amongst each other.
Las Valientes is not just an agency but a home that treasures and values friendship, a sort of promised land that welcomes one and all to enjoy the sweet fruit it has to offer while also “breaking the chains of violence”.
Who would have thought Nutrition Class Would be Life Altering?
I chose to do my service learning extra credit work at the Vista Unified School District Child Nutrition Department. I chose this department because a friend and coworker works in the free and reduced lunch department. She loves her job, so I thought it would be perfect to learn all about it, and get a foot in the door. I love broadening my horizons!! When I chose this work site I assumed I would be working at the nutrition department site simply processing paperwork and learning how the school lunch program operates. Boy, was I surprised at where I ended up and what I ended up doing...it was life altering.
I emailed Amy Haelssly the registered dietician and nutrition education & training supervisor with the school lunch program. She was wonderful and promptly responded to my email. We met and got the paperwork going to set up for the service learning registration. I was able to fill out the background check paper needed to work at the schools and was approved right away. Amy called me when the approval for me working with the school was cleared, and that’s when she told me I would be teaching nutrition to 4th graders at an elementary school. I was scared to death but quickly accepted the invitation. She gave me the work books we would be going over so that I could prepare and get a feel for what I would be doing. I taught them nutrition using the ‘Power Play’ workbooks designed for 4th grade students. My work site was at Maryland Elementary School and I would be teaching along with three teachers twice a week. I was terrified as the start date approached but once I began, I was quickly calmed and reassured by the children that I was doing great. They were wonderful to teach and so willing to learn and even try new things. The teachers were all very supportive, helpful, and reassuring, and I appreciated my opportunity working with them. I had never taught a day in my life, and it was so awesome to hear one teacher tell me how good at it I was and to learn that teaching is a daily learning experience.
I learned a lot about myself and my genuine joy of teaching kids. I learned that kids really do want to learn and are eager and interested in learning about food and the benefits of nutrition for the body. They were so enthusiastic when we did the activities and were so willing to eat healthier alternatives and dump the junk! It was shocking and reassuring to see that out of three classes of kids, only one kid wouldn’t try the food when we did the “rate the taste” activity. I made sure to let the kids know how proud of them I was for their willingness to open their minds about trying new food. I explained that they would never really know for sure if they liked or didn’t like something if they didn’t try it.
I was happy to hear that, for the most part, the kids are all pretty active. They learned that it’s important to “keep moving” and that exercise is vital to your body and wellness. It’s important to burn the calories you eat. I am sad to hear that the schools don’t really have a physical education class anymore and it’s a shame because being active is a vital part of life and should be included in school.
This experience was majorly life changing. I have decided to change majors from Sociology to Nutrition. I want to teach kids about nutrition because I believe that the younger they are taught the better chance they have at believing and using the knowledge. You can’t always teach old dogs new tricks. I have tried talking to older people about the things I learned in nutrition class and most don’t want to hear it. I hear, “You only live once” too many times. I think kids are more open-minded and eager to learn. I have become more and more passionate about nutrition and how food really is medicine. I want to end this saying that the service learning experience was the best and greatest opportunity one could get. I appreciate MiraCosta for offering it and I pray it is always there for future students to experience. I would never have known that I enjoyed teaching as much as I did if I didn’t get this opportunity. Thank you!
A Lesson by the Sea
I have had a great experience with the Carlsbad by the Sea retirement home for the past week. It is a private, not-for-profit, licensed continuing care retirement community which focuses on serving seniors age fifty and over as individuals and families. The community is divided into three main categories: independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing living.
As a volunteer at the skilled nursing living, I received orientation which covered a clear and specific job description and appropriate assignments according to skills, training, and interests that I’m currently required to have as a CNA. I was helping in the activity department, assisting with the transfer of residents from the activity room to the dining room or to go outside by the beach area. I also volunteered to help pass out food and drinks during the residents’ activities and communicate with them.
I learned a lot from the service learning experience; how to perform a safety transferring residents in a wheelchair; consideration for their physical disabilities; how important it is to fulfill their emotional needs in addition to their physical comfort (i.e. quality of life); and how to cooperate fully with management and staff plus maintain a good team attitude.
What I liked the most from this experience is how the residents and the staff here treat each other with dignity and respect. Everyone here always greets others with a sweet smile and treat each other in a very friendly and nice manner. The employees are professional and passionate about their jobs which they demonstrate by how they treat the residents and also the residents’ families.
Budgeting, education, and economic development are all examples of multiple challenges that cities have to overcome on a yearly basis. In 2003, the city of Vista was facing a rise of homelessness when focusing on families out on the streets. With the support of neighboring cities and local churches, Vista community members were able to address this issue by establishing a shelter known as Operation Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement (HOPE) with the intent of providing a safe haven for homeless families, and single women, and equip them with the proper resources to become independent. I dedicated two weeks of volunteering for this organization and have learned how successful it has come to be over the years, and the powerful impact that it has on the families. Ultimately, the staff of Operation HOPE-Vista do a phenomenal job utilizing the resources provided to them in order to supply families with the essential services. The shelter and resources will further assist the City of Vista with countering the rise in homelessness that its community faces.
By having a solid foundation Operation HOPE-Vista was finally able to fully implement its guidelines and values to the shelter. The main objective for Operation HOPE-Vista is to help homeless families with young children, specifically single mothers. In order to accomplish this goal, the shelter has a recovery program that consist of allowing families to live in the shelter for over sixty days, and during this time period the shelter offers workshops to the mothers which will teach them important skills that will assist them in finding jobs and improve other aspects of their lives. For example, the shelter will coordinate with outside sources that will come to shelter and deliver classes to the mothers that will teach them how to write a resume, how to dress and interact in an interview, how to repair their credit, financial management, and many more important skills that are required in the job field. To further push the envelope, the shelter will contact local business such as Goodwill and set job interviews for the mothers to increase their chances of obtaining a job (Tom). Not only do the mothers receive lessons on job searching, but also in medical care. Staff members from the Vista Community Clinic will come once a week to shelter and perform check-ups on the children and mothers, followed by giving any medical advice that families may need as well as teaching lesson on proper eating habits and nutrition. Furthermore, tutoring is held every day of the week for the kids in order to help them with any issues that they may be facing with homework. All of these services and many others that Operation HOPE-Vista has to offer have a significant impact on the lives of the families that will help them get back to their normal lives, which will not only accomplish the goals of Operation HOPE-Vista but as well as the families'. Overall, the organization is thoroughly executing the City of Vista’s agenda when it comes to alleviating the rise of homelessness in its community.
Due to the success that the shelter has had throughout the years many families apply to the shelter’s program, but only a certain amount of people are admitted due to limited amount of space that the shelter has. But, before families can be admitted to the shelter’s program they need to meet certain requirements that consist of being drug free before entering which is followed by taking mandatory drug tests, and lastly having a feasible plan along with a positive attitude for the future when it comes to overcoming their current situation (Tom). The shelter also focuses on the reasons why and how these families became homeless, whether or not there were any foul play involved, such as substance or physical abuse, because this can then possibly place other people that are in the shelter in harm’s way. Most of the times the reason why families are homeless is due to job loss, bills piling up, and being unable to pay rent, which forces them onto the streets. With this being said, the shelter acknowledges these issues that families have had in the past and are able to create individual case management plans for each family to move forward with regaining their independence.
Through my time of volunteering I was able to witness the gradual impact that the shelter has on the families. The first day that I went to the shelter was on a late afternoon on the opening day for the shelter’s winter season. When I arrived I was directed to the common room where all of the families were gathered around to eat dinner. The adults were quiet and reserved since it was their first time eating with one another and it takes time to get comfortable with meeting new faces. But, on the other hand the kids were loud, energetic, and more willing to interact with one another. After dinner was over the parents went off to a classroom to attend a workshop, which left me with the responsibility of taking care of children and running activities to keep them entertained. Initially this was completely manageable since I only had to take care of three kids who were well behaved, but things became hectic when a group of four young brothers arrived late to the shelter. My situation immediately turned to a whirlwind of laughter, cries, and yelling that came from the seven kids. Each kid wanted to do a different activity such as reading, playing with blocks, or playing tag. At first it was a bit difficult to make everyone happy, but luckily reinforcements came to my aid when another volunteer arrived to the scene with face paint. As a result, both my partner and I were successful at taking care of the kids. Once the workshop was over, the parents returned to the common room in order to get their children ready for bed and end the day. With the first day of volunteering being completed it gave an idea of the routine that I was going to encounter in the upcoming days.
By the third day of volunteering I was getting better at taking care of the kids and talking to the parents. I would eat dinner with the families and get well acquainted with them on a personal level, which was a great feeling because the parents would let me know that they are happy and comfortable with me watching over their kids. With the approval of the parents I had gained the confidence to take care of the kids, which helped me tremendously on my last day of volunteering since there were more families that were admitted to shelter, and that meant that I would be taking care of more kids. I became responsible for a total of twelve kids that were between the ages of four through eleven. I was well prepared to take care of them this time around since I planned out which games to run such as freeze tag, red-light green-light, Simon says, and many more. It was fun seeing them getting along with one another, to fight and cry, and how they were building somewhat of a family bond with each other. It genuinely made me happy whenever they would smile and laugh from playing these games, and telling them cheesy jokes because despite the fact that these kids are fully aware of their difficult situation, they are not letting it get the best of them; the children are resilient and intelligent. From spending all of this time with the kids I had grown attached to them, thus it was extremely difficult to say goodbye on my last day of volunteering.
Through my experience with Operation HOPE-Vista I have learned how a shelter comes to be, how it is run, and most important, the effects that it has on the families. It provides families with more than a second chance in life, it gives them the opportunity to learn and prosper from their difficult circumstances. It’s also a safe haven for children who are innocently faced with the hardships of life. From this, I’ve become more passionate when it comes to helping people with any type of ordeal big or small, especially knowing that a small gesture can have a tremendous result in someone’s life.
Overall, Operation HOPE-Vista is a phenomenal organization that is assisting the city of Vista in countering the rise of homeless families and offering families a stable support system. It is an organization that deserves more recognition and support from its community members.
“About Us.” Operation Hope. 2015. Web. 15 November 2015.
Tom. Personal Interview. 11 November 2015
Back to School
The organization that I volunteer for is a one-of-a-kind comprehensive and holistic healthcare program that includes reconstructive surgeries, laser clinics, a speech therapy clinic, and dental clinics called Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. They provide free surgery to about 7,000 children with physical deformities (Howwework).
The goals of this organization is to help children with physical deformities and to help them live a better life because most children with physical deformities are unfortunately bullied by other children and that can cause them to suffer from depression. They meet their goals by helping over 400 children a year, and providing the children that they help with speech therapy. Fresh Start hosts six to seven Surgery Weekends each year where experts in reconstructive surgery donate their time and talents to transform the lives of over 400 children annually. Last year Fresh Start’s Surgery Weekend program provided 1,473 medical treatments to 379 patients.
They provide families with different kinds of services such as speech therapy, which allows the children that are being afflicted with craniofacial disorders, such as cleft lip and palate, to regain their ability to speak audibly and correctly. Approximately 30 patients each year receive speech therapy services which grant confidence and motivation to accomplish their goals. Another service that they have is the laser clinics that treat approximately 84 infants, children and teens each year who suffer from deformities such as port wine stain and bums. Laser treatments work by reducing the appearance of scars created by reconstructive surgery. They also provide with transportation and lodging Fresh Start Surgical Gifts provide all medical treatments in San Diego, CA either at the Fresh Start clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital or at the office of a volunteer dentist or other medical professionals. They can arrange for transportation, lodging and meals for patients from outside of San Diego. Also, they bring the patients to San Diego in order to ensure sanitary operation rooms, easily available and high quality equipment, and to have the resources to bring in a specialist for especially complex or rare conditions. The majority of Fresh Start Surgical Gifts’ patients participate in almost all of the medical services that they offer since deformities affect multiple aspects of every patient.
I am so satisfied with Fresh Start Surgical Gifts and I am glad that I volunteer for their program. The experience that I got was beyond wonderful, I always wanted to become a nurse and I am willing to fulfill that need that I have about helping others by achieving my goal of becoming a nurse one day. I’ve always had an interest in criminal investigation that is why I wanted to become a forensic nurse, but I have always loved children and how grateful they are. Before this experience I was sure I wanted to become a forensic nurse, but thanks to the amazing experience I realized my heart is in pediatrics. The first day I got to Rady’s Children’s hospital, I did not know what to expect I knew I was going in for interpreter, so I had in mind I was going to be able to have fully interaction with the patients and the patient's parents. The staff working for Fresh Start were so nice to me and made me feel really comfortable with asking any questions. The first day I volunteered was on November 5th, 2015 and I worked with Katherine Seedwey, she has a Doctorate in Nursing and she works as a Pediatric Nurse and she is also a professor at San Diego State University. It was a pleasure working with her, she answered all my questions she had this amazing vibe that she transmitted to the children making them feel comfortable. Even though she didn’t know how to speak Spanish she was really good at communicating with them through playing and also smiling a lot. I was really happy that I got to meet such a wonderful person I was translating for her everything the parents were saying in Spanish and I was doing the same with the parents translating her questions to them and to the children. I realized how hard it may have been for a parent to have to sit and trust a stranger, that stranger being me to translate everything to them. I could only imagine the frustration they may of had at the moment, but thankfully I was able to speak to them and let them know that I was there for them and that I was going to translate everything as accurately as I could. The first patient that got to the room was a boy, he was really cute. He suffered of Microtia (deformity of the ear). The strength of the parent was amazing and it transmitted to the child, at first I thought that it was only going to be that particular boy that was so strong. To my surprise every child that walked into the room was so brave and happy and I was amazed by every single one of them. I got to meet six children, the oldest of the children that I got to meet was a girl that was twelve years old and the youngest was eighteen months.
The story that shocked me the most was from the twelve year old girl, who was tragically burned when she was only 14 months. The skin on her neck was attached to the skin of the chest, which made it really painful for her to raise her head. The parent, when asked if she had ever been taken to the hospital, answered “no”. That answer was really shocking to me because I was not expecting that at all, I thought that with a burn like that, she would of had to obviously be taken to the hospital and get some treatment in the affected area. But she did not, also when the doctor asked me to ask the parent if she had any procedures done in the neck he also answer “no”. I was so shocked to imagine the pain that the girl that was sitting in front of me had to go through. I was burned once by boiling water and I was crying and I still remember to this day the pain that I felt. Watching that little girl there with such strength made me realize how lucky I am that I never had to go through anything like that. I tried to understand the parent too, why he had not taken his child to the hospital, one of them was the lack of resources. Maybe they did not have money or another one that I thought about was that maybe the parents were too scared of taking their child to the hospital for the fear of their baby being taken away from them.
Another story that really impacted my life that day was a mother with two children, her daughter, who was four years old and her son who was 18 months they suffered from Treacher Collins Syndrome. Since the first time that I saw that little boy walk into the room my heart melted, he is such an angel. He was so happy, smiling the whole time and also he was so protective of his sister as the doctor was doing the check up on his sister he would stand right next to her and just carefully watch. He kept trying to reach for his sister to hold him, the connection they had was so wonderful. The mother was really relaxed and she was answering to every question without any problem. The girl was going for her fifth reconstructive surgery unfortunately the syndrome had affected more the girl than her brother, she had problem with vision and had two procedures done on her head to reconstruct her cranial bones and two others on her facial bones. This time they were going to have her go in for eye surgery to help her with her vision since her eyes could not look straight. The Doctor finished by asking the mother questions, asked if she knew if it was a gene or a syndrome, the mother’s comfort changed the moment that she heard that question. Her posture changed, her shoulders slowly went down along with her face. She said, “I carry the gene.” The chance of her children having this condition is 50% since the dad did not carry the gene, but unfortunately the children were born with this condition. I was amazed that she still decided to have her baby. I say this because I can only imagine how hard it can be taking care of a child with Treacher Collins Syndrome because this syndrome can affect several parts of the body such as vision. I wanted to let her know how proud of her I was because there are several parents that would of chose to not have to go through the struggle of taking care of them or the difficulty that this syndrome may bring their child such as bullying.
Another girl that I got really attached to was a beautiful eight year old that was from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. She had ears six times as big as any girl her age. She was such a diva. She had this way of talking and fortunately she knew how beautiful she was, but the only thing that she did not like about herself was her ears. I got really attached to this girl because she reminded me of myself at her age. On the day of the surgery, I did not want her to go on without her knowing that I was going to wait for her until she came out, and as soon as that girl walked into the post-operation room, she smiled and hugged me. I felt such a joy that in some way and she felt comfortable with me. Another girl that was going to go into surgery suffered of Microtia and she was with her mother who was from a common land in Mexico. They lived traditionally and had a farm; she would ride horses and do parades with the dresses that her grandmother made for her. I was able to translate for her on the day of the surgery when the nurse came to let her know that in any second her girl was going to go into surgery I could see the worried look in her eyes. I could feel her sadness, but at the same time her hope. As the girl was walking into the operating room and her mom had to let her go and watch her leave, she crumbled and started too cry and I did too. I hugged her and I said that I was sure that her child was going to come out fine.
After everyone left, the Fresh Start staff and I stayed because I wanted the parents of those children to know exactly what was going to happen after surgery. I felt their frustration as I was wondering how hard it could be for a parent to have to sit through a procedure that was being explained to them but that they could not fully understand. Every parent wants to know what to do after surgery. I stayed for them and because I realize how much I loved every second of it.
I was able to learn about the procedures and I also was able to understand and practice some terminology that was being used by the doctor. I also learned that my passion for nursing and helping others affirmed my career path. I am glad to say that this service did not affect me any way it actually helped me realize and know how lucky I am. I am truly changed by this experience; I have changed into a better person. I have learned that there are children out there who are going through so much and still have a huge smile and a positive attitude. So this gives me strength to know that I can do it! And I realize how thankful I am for not having any physical deformities or syndromes affecting my life. Because of this I am strong enough to volunteer on January 9, 2016 for the next surgical week. I am excited to meet more children and be able to talk to them and provide the parents with my services.
“Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: Causes and Treatments,” WebMD. WebMD, 2005. Web. 2015. “Craniofacial (Hemifacial) Microsomia.” Craniofacial (Hemifacial) Microsomia. KidsHealth. Web.10 Dec. 2015.
“Hemangioma.”- Mayo Clinic. 18 July 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
“How we work. Fresh Start Surgical Gifts How We Work.. n.d .2014. Web.01 Dec.2015.
Hyde, Patrice, “Port-Wine Stans.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation. 1 Sept. 2013. Web.10 Dec.2015
“Giant Congenital Nevus: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. ‘U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
‘’Microtia- Congenital Ear Deformity Institute. San Antonio.” WebMD. n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. “Neurofibromatosis.”- Mayo Clinic. 3 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 Dec.2015.
“Treacher Collins Syndrome.” Genetics Home Reference. MayoClinic. n.d. Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
Using my Interest in Food
Some people say ignorance is bliss and for most people that quote rings true until knowledge of being informed opens your eyes like a flash of lightning. My eyes were opened when I decided to return to school at age 38. I was a stay at home mother of three wonderful kids. My oldest is 13 and I have 6 year old twins. I am very fortunate that I had the opportunity to spend their entire early childhood with them but as time moved on, they got bigger and school became their priority. My oldest was already in school most of the day but my twins had just finished half day kindergarten and were going to start all day 1st grade. I was about to have time on my hands after six wonderful years with them. What was I to do now? I had been a bookkeeper by trade and I could have gone back to work but the thought of being confined to a desk for eight hours pushing paper got me sick just thinking about it. Although bookkeeping is a great trade to know, it wasn’t my passion. I decided to gather all the books I owned (which was a ton of books), I piled them into groups and I asked myself, “What is my passion?” Most of my books that I owned were cook books, nutrition books, gardening books, self-help books and art books. Through my little experiment, I figured I loved food, I wanted to be healthy, I’m a creative hard worker and I enjoy making people feel good. I decided I needed to go back to school and use my interests to create something great.
I enrolled at Mira Costa College and decided to take a nutrition class and a psychology class to start off my journey. Both classes complimented each other but every assignment and lecture from my Nutrition class was inspiring and the knowledge seemed to just sink into my brain. I realized that my Nutrition class fueled my interests and I was excited to learn more and share my knowledge with others.
I decided to take on the extra credit assignment to volunteer with the service learning department. I spent Friday mornings at my twin’s elementary school and volunteered to help them with their garden. The first Friday I pulled out all the weeds from a small plot and got the soil ready for the kids to plant seeds. When it was time to plant on the second Friday, I gathered three kids at a time and showed them how and where to dig the holes to plant the seeds. I explained to them how soil and water help the seeds grow and why we need to eat food grown from the earth. I informed them that food from the earth has vitamins, minerals and gives our bodies energy to help our bodies grow strong and healthy. Many of them did not know what vitamins were, so I explained to them that our bodies were like plants. We need to eat food to give us energy and when we eat the fruits and vegetables we get vitamins and minerals that protect us and keep our bodies working properly as we grow. We also need water just like plants do every day to keep us hydrated, clean our insides and lube our joints so we can always run and play. Even though most of the children did not know what vitamins were, I was impressed by their knowledge of carrots and how they knew carrots were good for your eyesight. They also knew that eating an apple a day will keep the doctor away. Every other Friday we would tend to the garden and wait for our seeds to grow. As the seeds started to sprout so did their excitement for taking care of their garden. The school had a garden for each grade level and hopefully they will continue to get excited about gardening as they get older.
My next volunteer project was to create a presentation board about nutrition for the MiraCosta college night at Del Rio Elementary School. I was already half way through the semester in my nutrition class and I had already learned so much. I wanted to share my knowledge and some hot topics that would be interesting to parents and children. I decided my presentation board was going to be about sugar, healthy snacks, and junk drinks. I gave parents a paper handout that listed fifty different healthy snacks and how to prepare them. My board had common lunch items that many parents give their children as snacks such as Nutella with breadsticks, yogurt, Snickers chocolate bar, mini chocolate chip cookies, instant oatmeal and gummy candy. I placed sugar cubes above these items to show how much sugar was in each snack. I had a cooler with different packaged drinks that are usually packed with a lunch, and attached to them were baggies of how many sugar cubes were in each drink. The surprise came when I explained to them how many cubes of sugar can be ingested throughout the day, when combining sugary drinks with one or more of these snacks. Most of them were flabbergasted to see how much sugar their child may be consuming.
Next, I explained to them the importance of water and the benefits of drinking water every day. Water is vital to our existence, it keeps us alive. It has many different functions throughout our entire body. It also has zero calories and it won’t add unnecessary amounts of sugar to the diet. During my presentation when I replaced the sugary drinks with water, the amount of sugar consumed went down. I thought this was a great first step for anyone to take towards a healthier diet.
My overall involvement with sharing my time to talk about the importance of nutrition with children and parents was an enlightening experience. I enjoyed spending time with the kids as we created a garden together. I loved how they showed great interest throughout the entire process of gardening. The happiness they got from watering and watching the seeds sprout were proud moments. The knowledge they gained about gardening at such a young age hopefully will carry on with them forever and shared with many. The same goes for the parents and kids who were interested in my presentation board. They all left home learning something they didn’t know before and I felt satisfied knowing that they left informed. As we grow our dietary needs change and I believe every person should be well educated and learn how to take care of their bodies as they age. Through proper eating habits, physical activity and nutritious food everyone can have success at living a long healthy and happy life.
Never Too Late
This Fall I began to work on my AA here at Mira Costa, at the generously gorgeous age of 46! Which is a whole other story, but I just wanted to mention that it’s never too late to start a new juncture in life, from a 25 plus year stay at home mom to college student. Nutrition is a pretty standard general education requirement so I started here. It may sound like a class that will be fairly easy, and the professor is very straight forward in letting you know from the get go that this will be a very academic venture, not just a fad diet exercise class. Which I was prepared to tackle head on, however with the newness of college and a history of not so excellent nutrition it proved to be challenging and I found myself in need of extra credit, hence my experience with service learning.
I decided to take the challenge of participating in a College Night event at a local elementary school. Del Rio Elementary School is a K thru 5th grade school serving a 66% Hispanic/Latina student body, with only 21 % proficient in English. The school also has a high lower income % rate of 86. More concerning is the parent college graduate rate of only 16%. This makes a college night very encouraging to these young children, getting them to strive for more in an educational path. The night includes many Mira Costa student representatives in different areas of college, from class information, to clubs, to financial planning, to cultural events and much much more. This was to show children and their parent the many great experiences in attending our local community college, and how accessible it really is. The highlight of the evening was a guest speaker, former Del Rios Elementary student and a Mira Costa graduate. It was very encouraging to the children and families to realize the great potential available to everyone. My service learning endeavor was to present a bit of what they could learn from the Nutrition 100 class. I decided this would be appropriate since it was a school that serves a large amount of low-income families. Most students are likely on some kind of budget so the food, or more so, drink choices may not always be as healthy as possible. I set up a table to demonstrate the drink choices, the amounts of sugar and the amount of exercise needed to burn off these empty calories.
I set out a display of all orange colored drinks along with the ever popular Big Gulp, milk and water. Next to each of these I filled a zip lock bag full of sugar with the written amount of teaspoons inside that each drink contained. I then let the crowds come to me. Sadly, most kid thought I was offering them these familiar beverages. Instead they got a description of just how much white granulated sugar they would be drinking with these choices. The children picked up the bags of sugar, ranging from 2 % teaspoon to nearly 25%. This really drove home the weight size feel and actual mass of the sugar physically. Most of them were shocked; however, the shock of their parents was greater. Kids were surprised that even what seemed like healthy choices like milk or pure fresh squeezed orange juice had so much sugar. The display had a chart stating the main effects of too much sugar consumption, obesity and tooth decay. Each child was told about the different amount of exercise they would be required to do after even one drink, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Over all it was a good experience to be able to teach and educate young children in our community. It was valuable information that can help them make better choices before they fill up a Big Gulp or a can of soda. It was a great feeling to see a child’s WOW moment. I do hope that this made an impact on even one child and one parent. If the information I shared stays with even one person, it was worth the efforts. It feels good to be out in the community. I had my son help me set up the display so I know over the course of the night he was exposed to a great encouragement about attending college as well as driving home the reason why I rarely let him have soda. It was a fun fulfilling experience and I would recommend it to others in the future.
A Special Reflection
The organization I happily served was Special Olympics. Special Olympics is a non-profit that focuses on helping mentally-disabled people excel, get stronger and accomplish overcoming their fears through sports and athleticism. It has been scientifically proven many times how beneficial the effect that physical fitness and competition has on one’s brain, and I saw first-hand how it helps many people across all ages. Through sports, the mentally disabled can stream their focus into the sport rather than their mental condition, and channel all that mental energy to become a stronger, smarter person as a result. Quoted from the Special Olympics website, “Through sports, our athletes are seeing themselves for their abilities, not disabilities. Their world is opened with acceptance and understanding. They become confident and empowered by their accomplishments. They are also making new friends, as part of the most inclusive community on the planet — a global community that is growing every day.” This statement is the basis of the Special Olympics philosophy, which made volunteering very joyful.
While volunteering at Special Olympics, I spent most of my time on the soccer field, assisting coaches by interacting with athletes who are eight years old and above. I’d come in to practices on Wednesdays, in the Kroc Center, El Cajon, about fifteen minutes early to help the coach setup before all the athletes come in. He’d tell me what drills the athletes were going to do and what skills they’re going to practice, depending on the upcoming competition. The athletes show up at around six-thirty o’clock, along with their families and other volunteers and assistant coaches. The main coach starts off the training with a big huddle of the whole team to let them know what they’re doing for the day, and us assistant coaches would have to facilitate the drills, be very supportive and have fun interacting with the students. Because the athletes had disabilities, each with different intensities and conditions, we had to be very careful when facilitating the drills, and make sure to raise their self-esteem by constantly cheering them on and supporting their every move. As time passed, we’d end up doing three or four drills and end practice with a friendly soccer game. This was when all the coaches, volunteers, and athletes joined and put their skills, joy and friendship to action.
The service experience connected with the course material in several ways. One of which was definitely the role that claims-makers had on the media and public reaction. The organization has considerably built a strong foundation when it comes to public relations and connecting with the locals and the world. Through simply following Special Olympics accounts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, I’ve witnessed how many followers Special Olympics has and continues to gain. Not only is it a remarkable organization, but also turning into a social movement (also another concept we’ve learned in class). I saw the role landmark narratives had on athletes, and have seen how responsive policy makers, celebrities and global figures have been with the organization, giving it very high respect.
My overall experience in Special Olympics was one I’m so grateful for, and continue to be as I strive to volunteer after this assignment. From the first day I volunteered, I was welcomed by a big hug from one of the athletes - Eric, one of the oldest athletes in that center, who’s been with Special Olympics for 19 years and has recently passed his Bar Law Examination. He was a thirty-year-old with a twelve-year old voice and actions, also being one of the friendliest and strongest person I’ve ever met. Another example of why I’m going to continue being a part of the Special Olympics community is Danny, a 9 year old who spoke for the first time in his life in Special Olympics practice the week prior to my first week of volunteering. These people, since the first day of practicing with them and having fun, were hugging me and thanking me for being with them. I saw how much they were in need, in need of personal support and in need of love. Through Special Olympics, these kids flourish and are the happiest when in the center, you could see it in their eyes and what they say. Special Olympics has made me into a much more humble, happier and more well-rounded person, and I will continue to spread awareness and volunteer for the organization.
A Community Learning Reflection
The community organization I served was at the MiraCosta Community Learning Center. MiraCosta's Community Learning Center(CLC) offers noncredit fee base classes and also along with many other programs like citizenship, ESL, high school diploma and GED classes, and short-term vocational. They also provide counseling, transferring, and tutoring services just like Oceanside MiraCosta's main campus. The CLC is for anyone who wants to continue school, get a diploma or their GED, or those who cannot afford to attend college. My first day of service learning was helping Angela, an English teacher that paired with professor Strona work an event. The event was the Reading Festival; it allowed students that go to the CLC and also the public to bring their children for a night of literacy. The second time I went back to the CLC was for another event; this event was for the students at the CLC. Inside the CLC, we had tables set up for them to go around and learn about Chinese New Year but also tying it in with literacy. My station was Chinese art, so students had the option to make a Chinese fan or write a positive note and the next person that came along would pick one out of a bowl, almost like a fortune cookie.
My experience at the CLC was phenomenal; I learned that it is important to give back to our community. I also learned something about myself; I learned that I enjoyed volunteering and missed doing something that I feel helps make a difference. My experience with community service throughout middle school and high school made an impact on me. I don’t mind giving up some of my time to help or serve my community; I find it fun and helpful. I do feel like I made a difference. When I assisted at the second event the students at the CLC looked like they enjoyed students from MiraCosta volunteering; they were so grateful, and I can see they had fun learning about the Chinese culture. One thing I did not experience was any criticisms, but I did get complimented for being there and helping out. When Professor Strona mentioned service learning was going to be at the CLC, my first reaction was how was I going to get there and fitting it into my schedule. Also, during my start of service-learning, I used public transportation, so it was a bit difficult because getting around on the bus takes some time to get from one destination to another.
During my experience at MiraCosta's Community Learning Center I felt like those who attend are very fortunate to do so because many people in our community do not know about the CLC. In relation to literacy, service learning did help me understand concepts of my English course and how similar my class is to the CLC English class. When I helped Angela's class, they were in the process of writing an essay which I can relate to because my English class was also working on an essay during that time. I was able to use my knowledge of how to compose an essay and help the students at the CLC with theirs. Also, in some ways helping the CLC students helped me to retain some information on how to write a paper. This experience enriched my education and career goals, which pleased me because I was not sure about service learning at the beginning of the semester. By helping students at the CLC, I started to reflect on my education and career goals. My new goals consist of working with students, although with service learning I helped adult students but I would like to continue working with children. I also realized that all of my community services I have done throughout middle and high school was working with kids, and now, I work with children at an elementary school. I would like to take more child development classes because it would help me understand the growth of children. I am still quite unsure what I would want to do with a degree in child development, but I do know I want to keep working with students. I love helping the young ones because I can be a mentor to them, someone they can look up too.
The Real Ecology of Teaching
For my service learning I chose to go Ivey Ranch Elementary that is located in Oceanside, where I chose to work with a second grade class with the students ranging from ages seven to eight. I chose these ages because I want to work with this age group when I become a teacher. I found it to be a really fun job so I figured that it would good to see if I liked these ages as much as I did when I was younger. My first observation was that the atmosphere was inviting and fun with all the students’ art tiles around the walls of the entrance of the school, and the two nice playgrounds for children to use during recess and lunch. Finally, all the classrooms seemed personalized, the teacher made each class seem unique, to their students.
I was able to make many connections between this child development 210 course and the service learning experience. I was able to see in practice many examples of the methods of socialization. The main method that I noticed mostly was the operant methods of socialization in the use of techniques of reinforcement, punishment and feedback. This intentional socialization of values, attitudes and morals was the most frequent form of socialization in this classroom in instances where the teacher used positive reinforcement such as giving fun class jobs to students that exhibit a desirable behavior. Also, with the use negative punishment of students having to move their class clip down on the behavioral chart that results in being the last the leave class to show the consequence of being disruptive in class frequently in a class day.
In addition, the other major connection between the text and the service learning experience is seeing the real life ecology of teaching. I noticed in my service learning that the democratic leadership style that is characterized with the “leader guiding and collaborating with the students results in a content, cooperative and productive group” (Bems 219). Ms. Dikiy, the teacher I worked with demonstrated this leadership style many times and I noticed the benefits almost immediately. The students seem to have felt they had guidelines to stick to, but they were in control to see what worked best for them in how they worked as individuals. Also, I saw how having some key characteristics as a teacher can have an effect on how effective/successful a teacher is in their classroom. As Bems states “teacher-child relationships are significant factors in school success” and a teacher is one of the single most important part that makes up the school as an agency of socialization for children. Some of the key characteristics that Ms. Dikiy displayed were warmth and friendliness with her students. This made her class very comfortable to ask her questions and be excited to learn new topics. Having these positive traits in the classroom definitely has a strong correlation with having a strong learning environment.
This service learning experience allowed me to get an idea of what it would be like following my career path of becoming a second grade elementary teacher. This experience helped me feel more comfortable in my career path than before having little experience in a classroom setting. After working with a teacher for a few weeks, I feel like I have an idea of what to expect. This work with second graders has helped me consider a career as a second grade teacher. I really enjoyed working with this age group because I like the cognitive and social development stage they are in. Completing service learning helped me grow as person because it allowed me feel more sure that a teaching career is a good fit for me.
I would recommend Ivey Ranch Elementary offer healthier lunch options. Not much has changed since they have similar lunches that I use to get when I went to school. To offer healthier choices, I believe they should try to incorporate fresh lunches that are made that morning. They are on the right track with offering fruit and a salad bar for the students to eat as sides.
Bems, R. M. (2004). Child, family, school, community: Socialization and support (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.